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I remember Lucas saying he was going to make smaller films and, yet, nothing has ever come of it.

By George, Give Up!
One critic begs and pleads for George Lucas to PLEASE stop already ...

By Jim Emerson
Special to MSN Movies

If George Lucas had given up directing after his first theatrical feature, "THX 1138," we would not have had "American Graffiti" or "Star Wars" as it existed when fanatical masses were camping out to see it (again and again) in the summer of 1977. Then again, we wouldn't have had "The Phantom Menace" (aka "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace") either, so there's always a bright side.

If Lucas had given up producing (or, more accurately, "executive producing," which could mean anything from developing a project to slapping his name on an already finished film), we might have been spared "Howard the Duck," but we wouldn't have had the "Indiana Jones" movies. The seriousness of the trade-off there largely depends on whether you've actually tried to watch "Howard the Duck."

Ever since the very first (er, fourth)"Star Wars" movie, Lucas has been talking about getting back to making those "small, personal" movies he claims he's always wanted to do. But for his last 30 years as a producer he has devoted himself almost entirely to "Star Wars"- and "Indiana Jones"-related projects: "The Ewok Adventure," "Ewoks" (animated TV series), "Droids" (animated TV adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO), Star Tours (Star Wars-based Disney amusement park ride), "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones" (TV), "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" (TV series), "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones" (home video), "Treasure of the Hidden Planet" (set between "Star Wars" Episodes III and IV), "Star Wars: Clone Wars" (animated TV series, 2003-2005), "The Clone Wars" (another animated TV series), "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (2008 video game), "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (soon-to-be-released animated feature film), "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" (video game), "Untitled Star Wars TV Series" (live action, scheduled to begin in 2009). He also reportedly plans to reprocess all the "Star Wars" films with Industrial Light and Magic's Dimensionalization software and reissue them yet again in "3-D" versions.

That's not all of them, but you get the picture. After 22 years of product management, Lucas returned to directing with the unfortunate "Phantom Menace," and completed the prequel trilogy with "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" between 1999 and 2005. Were these the "small, personal" films he'd been waiting all this time to create? Apparently not. He's still talking about an urge to get small, get personal, with his movies.

One word of advice for Mr. Lucas: Don't.

Two words: Please don't.

First of all, given Lucas' obsessive, single-minded devotion to the comic-book mythology and minutiae of what is commonly referred to as "the Star Wars saga" (we won't even go into the "extended universe"), what at this point could conceivably be more "personal" to Lucas, or offer more profound insight into his innermost psyche, than Star Wars? He directed two films before "Star Wars" -- "THX 1138" (1971) and "American Graffiti" (1973) -- and for the rest of his adult life, from his 30s into his 60s, he has committed himself to comic-book and storybook fantasies, including "Labyrinth," "Willow" and "The Land Before Time."

Secondly, Lucas' talents as a director have eroded dramatically over the years. Let's put things into perspective. Between 1971 and 1977, Lucas directed "little" movies. "THX 1138" felt like an expanded student film (which it was), set in an overexposed, dystopian science fiction universe, and is now best known for providing the name of Lucasfilm's sound design system/certification. "American Graffiti" was the closest thing to an autobiographical Lucas movie, a poignantly nostalgic ensemble comedy about the adventures of a group of teenagers on the last night of summer. Not only was it a gigantic hit (and the inspiration for TV's long-running "Happy Days"), but it was also hugely influential, triggering a wave of 1950s nostalgia, pioneering the use of the licensed-song scores (and best-selling soundtrack albums made from repackaged hits), and introducing (or at least popularizing) a technique that would be copied and parodied for years: the closing series of titles that spells out what happened to the characters in later years.

Here's the problem: After "American Graffiti," "Star Wars" was, directorially speaking, a significant leap backward. The state-of-the-art technological effects served a Buck Rogers mentality. And that was perfectly fine, because (for all the allusions to Joseph Campbell and Akira Kurosawa Westerns like "The Hidden Fortress") that's exactly what it is. Critics who actually "got" the movie in 1977, whether they went along for the ride or not, weren't proved wrong. They were proved irrelevant, shouted down by cheering crowds and Dolby zaps, roars and explosions (in the vacuum of space, no less!).

Influential New Yorker critic Pauline Kael wrote: "Maybe the only real inspiration involved in 'Star Wars' was to set its sci-fi galaxy in the pop-culture past, and turn old-movie ineptness into conscious Pop Art. And maybe there's a touch of genius in keeping it so consistently what it is, even if this is the genius of the plodding. Lucas has got the tone of bad movies down pat: you never catch the actors deliberately acting badly, they just seem to be bad actors, on contract to Monogram or Republic, their klunky enthusiasm polished at the Ricky Nelson school of acting." But while Kael recognized that the movie was "synthesized from the mythology of serials and old comic books" -- "THX 1138" began with an actual trailer for a Buck Rogers serial -- generations of "Star Wars" fans had no idea what she was talking about.

But even the quaint pulp zippiness of the early Star Wars trilogy was completely overwhelmed by digital artificiality by the time of the prequels. Returning as writer-director for the first time since "Episode IV -- A New Hope" , Lucas seemed dwarfed by the intricate mythology he had created. He dutifully carried out his mission, but with the evident enthusiasm of a battle droid mindlessly going through preprogrammed motions. OK, so Kaboo Wingtang was a Plebian Underlord who lobbied for excessive trade tariffs. Not even Lucas seemed to care, but he felt obligated to include the information, like a fifth grader cramming his book report with irrelevant plot details. (I don't think there's a Plebian Underlord named Kaboo Wingtang -- I could be wrong -- but that doesn't matter. But the trade tariffs do kick off the whole saga.)

Lucas' return to directing only confirmed what had been apparent for many years: He's a mogul, not a director.

"I've enjoyed 'Star Wars' enormously," Lucas told Wired magazine, "but it's great to be able to look forward to projects that I've wanted to do for a long time. I get to go back to what I was doing before this big thing happened." That was in 2005. Nobody believed it then, either.

By 2008, Lucas was telling The New York Times that "Star Wars" kept distracting him from writing those other things he wanted to write. Just when he thought he was out, it pulled him back in. Like a black hole. Still, if anyone could afford to make whatever movie he wanted, even if it's only for himself, it's Lucas.

"Maybe it ends up in a festival somewhere," he said. "Maybe it ends up in half a dozen theaters around the country for a couple weeks." Then again, in reference to his friend (and longtime executive producer) Francis Ford Coppola's "little, personal movie" from last year, "Youth Without Youth," Lucas asked the Times rhetorically: "Did you see it? Uh, no. Did you even know it came out?" Clearly he remains ambivalent about self-expression on a less-than-intergalactic scale. As the Times headline proclaimed, Lucas was "Free to Follow His Heart Right Back to 'Star Wars'."

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that Lucas did come up with something more personal than Luke (christened after his own high school nickname) Skywalker. His last film to acknowledge adult concerns (adult sexuality, adult emotions) was "THX 1138," co-written with sound designer Walter Murch and directed when he was 26. Any signs that he has grown up since then? Or did Kael's description of those who were hailing "Star Wars" as the film of the year apply even more so to Lucas' arrested development, which "goes way past nostalgia to the feeling that now is the time to return to childhood"?

Think of it this way: Do you want to see Jerry Bruckheimer's "small, personal" films? Michael Bay's? Rupert Murdoch's?

George: Stick to the moneymaking, which is what your empire does best. Leave the moviemaking to somebody else.
The big problem is that no one seems able to talk any sense into him at all. He gets an idea and there's no way to convince him that it's bad. He's too isolated from what fan's really want and what doesn't work.
Interesting article. I totally agree. Maybe we should send Lucas a nice fruit basket with this article attached?
Look at Lucas, you think he eats fruit?
I still want to organize a class action lawsuit against him for turning Darth Vader into a fag.
Hooch Wrote:I still want to organize a class action lawsuit against him for turning Darth Vader into a fag.

I'm in on that one. He took a bad-ass character and turned him into an anoying little kid and then a whiny teenager.
Hooch Wrote:I still want to organize a class action lawsuit against him for turning Darth Vader into a fag.

Maybe he should have cast you as Darth Vader. Being that you are such man's man :lol:


EaglesSuck Wrote:Maybe he should have cast you as Darth Vader. Being that you are such man's man :lol:

or maybe they should cast:

[Image: vincepapale.gif]
I know its Monday, but I'm having a bit of trouble understanding the last 2 posts above.
Hooch Wrote:I know its Monday, but I'm having a bit of trouble understanding the last 2 posts above.

I'm scratching my head about them also.
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